Originally presented at BoxingWatchers.com.
There's been something of a mini-renaissance for older boxers during the last few months. At age 43, Bernard Hopkins took apart the much younger Kelly Pavlik. Roy Jones Jr. nearly had one final big moment at 39 with his first round knockdown of Joe Calzaghe–no spring chicken himself at 36.
Clearly though, while the 35-and-over crowd can still put on a show and sell tickets, its time is coming to a close. Calzaghe's win could spell the end for him, Jones and Hopkins too. Oscar De La Hoya has been increasingly noncommittal, but he may call it a career after he fights Manny Pacquiao.
A loss to Antonio Margarito in January might mean it's the last time we see Shane Mosley in the ring. Even fighters on the good side of 35 like Floyd Mayweather Jr. (already retired, at least for now) and Ricky Hatton (who's spoken of fighting just a few more times) are wrapping up their careers.
Thinking about the departure of the old guard is enough to send a boxing fan into depression...except that there's quite a wave of young talent that will be ready to take the proverbial torch when it's passed. Even better, it's spread throughout almost the entire range of weight classes.
To prove it to myself, and you if necessary, I compiled a list of boxers who I think represent the immediate future of the sport. These are young guys I fully expect we'll be watching in title fights well into the 2010's.
What is young? It's an arbitrary line no matter where you draw it, but I wanted to make sure no one on the list would turn 30 until the next decade is at least a few years old. Thus, everyone here is currently under 27.
I'm going by the weight classes the boxers are most associated with at the present time since it's too hard to forecast who might move up or down going forward. I started at super featherweight since my knowledge of the lower divisions is spotty at best.
And you'll notice the glaring omission of heavyweights, because despite the fact that it's trendy to bash the big guys, the truth is that there really is a lack of talented young fighters over 200 pounds. The only heavyweight under 27 ranked in the top 20 on BoxRec.com is Eddie Chambers, so nothing more really needs to be said.
Without further ado, here are my picks for the best of boxing's next wave:
130 pounds: Robert Guerrero–He shares a nickname with Kelly Pavlik, and like the other Ghost, he's more likely to hunt you down and knock you out than elude you. Unhappiness with his promotion has led to nine months of inactivity, but the powerful lefty should be a handful once he resumes his career.
Honorable Mention: The record of Edwin Valero is the stuff internet legends are made of: 24 fights, 24 KO victories. Oh yeah, and 19 of those knockouts came in the first round. Unfortunately, Valero still has problems getting cleared to fight in most U.S. states as the result of health concerns stemming from a 2001 motorcycle accident. That means the unofficial son of MaxBoxing.com's Dougie Fischer may never get a true chance at stardom, which would be a shame.
135 pounds: Juan Diaz–The Baby Bull fights in a crowd-pleasing though possibly career-shortening style. His loss to Nate Campbell earlier this year showed how he could be beaten, but it took a combination of skill and guts most fighters don't have to pull it off. With 34 pro wins under his belt, it's hard to believe Diaz is only 25.
Honorable Mention: Hard-hitting Colombian Breidis Prescott stole the thunder from Amir Khan in September with a thrilling first-round KO. His competition thus far has been underwhelming, but he's someone to watch. Undefeated American Anthony Peterson gets props here too.
140 pounds: Timothy Bradley–Desert Storm had an impressive year, defeating tricky Brit Junior Witter in his home country, then unexpectedly headlining a Showtime card and beating Edner Cherry. He's built like a tank but actually is more boxer than brawler.
147 pounds: Andre Berto–The Reggie Bush look-alike is already a world champion at 25 and is fun to watch because he can punish opponents as the aggressor or the counter-puncher. Unless you count Steve Forbes - and I don't - he hasn't faced anyone yet who's truly made him dig down deep.
154 pounds: James Kirkland–Golden Boy believes in Kirkland, as they signed the undefeated southpaw to a deal last month. The Texas native has been running through opponents with four consecutive fights that did not make it out of the second round.
Honorable Mention: It's hard to pick just one since there are several good choices in this division. That being the case, I'll give some love to Alfredo Angulo, Joel Julio and Joe Greene.
160 pounds: Kelly Pavlik–Don't forget he's only 26. Yes, Hopkins exposed some holes in his game. No, I don't think anyone he'll be facing at middleweight in the near future will be able to take advantage of them the way The Executioner did.
Honorable Mention: Though he was knocked out in March by Brian Vera, Ireland's Andy Lee has already bounced back with a win. Emanuel Steward still thinks he has a bright future.
168 pounds: Andre Dirrell–My brother thinks his nickname could already be stale, but Dirrell deserves to be called The Matrix because he tries things that need to be seen to be believed. Even though he only has 17 pro fights on his record, he looks ready for top competition as soon as his next fight. Seeing him in against the Jermain Taylor-Jeff Lacy winner would be dynamite.
175 pounds: Chad Dawson–At 26, Bad Chad is already soaring up pound-for-pound lists, and the top contenders in his division are aging rapidly. He's got pretty much every offensive weapon a boxer could want except for one-punch KO power. If my name was Joe Calzaghe, I'd be thinking retirement looks a lot more pleasant than fighting Dawson.
Honorable Mention: If I had to name one boxer who fought like a force of nature, Tavoris Cloud would be my pick. The undefeated Floridian is raw, but he tries to take your head off with every power shot. No one who's been scheduled for more than four rounds with Cloud has made it the distance yet.
200 pounds: Johnathon Banks–The pickings get a little slim at cruiserweight, but it's still not as bad as it is at heavyweight. We'll know a little bit more about the 20-0 Banks soon, as he's slated to face Enzo Maccarinelli for two of the alphabet belts in early December.